Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gee Whiz, a Live Blog!

The baseball season is here! The RailCats open the spring today at 11 a.m. and we'll have a live blog running all game long live from Silver Cross Field to keep you updated. The best part? Ask a question in the comments today and we'll answer it. We promise.

So have at it RailCats fans. If you've ever wanted to know anything about the 2009 team, the offseason, the traffic on I-80, the economy, swine flu, macroeconomics or anything else, now is the time. You ask, we answer. Let us have it in the comments, we'll be here live at 11 a.m. to get started.

And if you're into it, Tweet at us:
www.twitter.com/railcats We'll follow you back because that's just the way we roll.

And we're off. First live blog of the year underway and the 'Hammers are on the field in Joliet. Aaron Trolia - Joliet's ace in 2008 - will start opposed by Tony Cogan, who is scheduled to pitch the first three innings.

No big surprises in the RailCats lineup, but a couple notes. Isaac Omura will bat cleanup behind McNamee, Pecci & Guerrero, and Paul Bartolucci (a middle infielder) will start in left.

Joliet, meanwhile, has 10 players (two DHs) in the starting lineup.

It's spring.

Drop us a line in the comments.

Eric McNamee gets the game started and strikes out on a hard 3-2 pitch from Trolia. Pecci pops up and Guerrero whiffs to follow, ending a 1-2-3 first.

Press box situation here is nice. The RailCats are well-represented. We've got both Mike Osipoff of the Post-Tribune and The Times Hillary Smith, and they may or may not also be live blogging. No need to check though.

Tony Cogan figures to be the RailCats Opening Day starter, and he makes the start today. Cogan's coming off an unheralded yet terrific 2008 and again faces a lot of pressure to carry an inexpereinced rotation. He's going to need to get out of the gate quickly once the season starts to give the 'Cats a rock to rely on.

A couple new Joliet outfielders start the game off, Adam Klein flies out to center but K.C. Herron rips a long double off the wall one batter later. Cogan gets Joey Gomes (DH #1) to pop out but Freddie Thon follows with a home run to right and the JackHammers break into the scoring column, now leading 2-0.

We've got a question - AND an answer!
Anonymous asks, "What's the linuep today?"

Excellent question, anonymous. Here's what we've got.

Eric McNamee, 2B
Jay Pecci, SS
Cristian Guerrero, RF
Isaac Omura, 3B
Mike Rohde, 1B
Rob Marconi, CF
Mike Massaro, DH
Paul Bartolucci, LF
Nate McKeon, C

Adam Klein, CF
K.C. Herron, LF
Joey Gomes, DH
Freddie Thon, DH
Phil Avlas, C
Andrew Pickney, 3B
Wally Backman, Jr., 2B
Kevin Rios, SS
Mike Coles, RF
Tim Alberts, 1B

Mike Rohde looks like he's in midseason form, stroking a long double off the wall in center. Rohde's worked hard this offseason to try and turn some of those 25 doubles from 2008 into more home runs, and his double today went about 390 feet.

But ... the RailCats can't do anything with it, and Trolia's through two innings scoreless.

This game is NOT open to the public but that has not stopped one die-hard RailCats fan. We need this man's name, because he's broken into Silver Cross Field to watch an exhibition game during work hours just to watch a game that will have 20 pitching changes, 30 lineup quirks and no PA/entertainment or, of course, other fans.

This man is a hero. Take note RailCats fans, that's how you support this team.

Another hard hit ball, this time a triple into the left-center field gap for Andrew Pinckney. He comes in to score on a groundout and it's 3-0 Joliet. After a Mike Coles (former RailCat!) single, Tim Alberts triples him in and Klein bunt single scores another. The 'Hammers lead 5-0 after two and Cogan is glad this game doesn't count.

Another Question
It turns out anonymous is from Texas. Either that or there are two anonymouses (?). Anyways, thanks for checking in.

More Questions!

Rule 10 asks two questions (bonus points for that).

First up, "Any word on the pitching today?" In fact, yes, there is word. Cogan will throw the first three followed in order by Aaron Cook, Eddie De la Cruz and Jon Mueller for two innings each.

Next, "How odd is it to watch a baseball game that's not open to the public?" A little odd, honestly, but not too bad. I will say the stranger thing will be the 10-man lineups, four-out innings and other eccentricities that this game will no doubt feature.

The Questions are Flying In!
Anonymous wants to know the latest on Esquer's hand.

Here's the latest on Esquer's hand. He had 10 stitches put in and will have them removed either today or tomorrow. Once he has that done, Esquer should be here Wednesday and will likely be with the team in St. Paul later this week.

Trolia gets the RailCats in order again in the third, striking out McKeon and McNamee. He looks in midseason form. Still 5-0 Joliet going to the bottom of the third.

Question from Kerouac
What's the update on Tanner Townsend?

Well, Kerouac, I wish the news was better. Tanner did have back surgery and will be out for a while, at least through the rest of the this month. At the moment, he's on the roster at Double-A Jackhsonville (along with Wille Glen), which would lead me to believe when he does get back that should be his starting destination. Tanner had an excellent winter in Puerto Rico where he was crushing the ball, so the injury is obviously disappointing.

Joliet's dueling DHs (Gomes & Thon) hit the ball hard but right at fielders, and Cogan gets through his first 1-2-3 innings in the third. On the the fourth, still 5-0.

Pitching change for Joliet, Trolia allows only one hit in three innings and strikes out five. He was one of the toughest pitchers in the league in the second half last year and he looked dynamite today.

Alex Vanoeveren on now for Joliet, a professional rookie from Washington, and Pecci and Guerrero greet the youngster with back-to-back sharp singles. After two outs, Rob Marconi delievers the RailCats a run, doubling off the wall in left. Guerrero is held at third - a little cautious for my liking but hey, Kenny Graham's in spring training too. [Kidding, Kenny].

More two-out hitting from the RailCats. Newcomer Mike Massaro singles under the glove of second baseman Wally Backman, Jr. to plate Guerrero and Marconi, and the RailCats are back in it at 5-3. Massaro swipes second on top of it, then walks home when Paul Bartolucci smokes a double into the leftfield corner, and now Bartolucci scores on a double from Nate McKeon. That's four straight run-scoring, two-out hits and this game is tied at five!

And we're still going in the fourth, pitching coach Floyd Youans to the mound for a chat.

Pitching change for Joliet.

Here's your first fun spring training moment of the year. The new pitcher is, well, we don't know for sure. The consensus is it's probably non-roster right-hander Jason Novak. We'll got with that.

The RailCats have hit around and Pecci is the first to face Novak with two on. Jay pops out to third and the inning is over, but a five spot on the board - all coming with two outs. It's 5-5 in Joliet.

Tony Cogan is off the hook after a rough day, allowing five runs on six hits in three innings. Aaron Cook is up next. Could be an interesting spring for Cook, especially with the RailCats without a closer. You would have to believe this guy has a shot at nailing down that job after a pretty dominating August last year with the RailCats. He'll be on for two innings.

Whoa. Andrew Pinckney, new Joliet third baseman, follows up his second inning triple with a mammoth home run to straightaway center. Joliet quickly back in front 6-5. Wally Backman, Jr. comes up next and singles, then steals second (questionably ... looked out from here) and scores on a Kevin Rios single.

So much for pitchers being ahead of hitters in the spring. It's 7-5 Joliet after four innings.

Two New Questions
Thanks for the questions, folks, keep 'em coming.

First, for Kerouac, next Tuesday's exhibition game is open to the public, like every RailCats exhibtion game. The Monday and Wednesday games are free, Tuesday's game will be just like a regular season RailCats game with between-inning contests, Tommy Williams on PA and more, but it will also cost $4 to attend. But fear not - proceeds from the game will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana.

Next up, news for Anonymous on Willie Glen. Unfortunately, I'm in the dark on Willie's current condition. I do know that this offseason he had arm surgery to fix a lingering problem that he pitched through last season (when he went to the Southern League All-Star Game despite the injury). I'll bring you folks an update on the latest from Glen when I get it.

The slugfest continues in the fifth where Guerrero is grazed by a pitch and Isaac Omura checks in with a ringing single to right-center. The RailCats eventually load the bases with one out, but Novak dances out of trouble, getting Massaro to pop up to shortstop and Bartolucci to fly out to center.

We're halfway home, still 7-5 'Hammers.

Aaron Cook settles down for a quick fifth, taking care of Joliet in order in the fifth - and getting a couple pretty good hitters (Gomes & Thon) to ground out.

Still 7-5 Joliet, throught five.

New pitcher for Joliet: Tall lefty Ryan Paul (who despite no resemblance IS in fact Chris Paul's twin brother)

First lineup change for the RailCats as Brett Wallace steps in and flies out to right on a nice play made by Coles. Jeff Beachum also inserted into the lineup, he follows and strikes out. Brandon Morgan checks in for the first time with two outs and walks on four pitches to get on with two outs, but Guerrero grounds out and the inning is over.

Good inning for Paul, and we go to the bottom of the sixth.

Pitching change for the RailCats, with Eddie De la Cruz now on. Final line on Cook: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB

De la Cruz - second straight sidearmer - looks pretty good in his first inning, striking out Ryan Arcadia and getting Wally Backman, Jr. to fly out to left. Young Brandon Morgan is in left, competing for a job with Paul Bartolucci. Both are infielders by trade, but Tagert wants one of them to be a jack-of-all-trades utility man, so they're showing their stuff in left while Steve Haake takes the day off.

Perfect inning for De la Cruz, the wheels have fallen off the offensive locomotive, it's still 7-5 into the seventh.

Pitching change for Joliet. Drew Shetrone, who was excellent last year for the 'Hammers before the Yankees signed him, is in. Shetrone was released this spring by the Bombers.

The RailCats do little in the seventh, Omura walks to lead off but Shetrone gets the next three in order. The game has lost a lot of steam, still 7-5 Joliet.

Eddie De la Cruz is the best pitcher so far for the RailCats, getting through another inning unscathed. De la Cruz finishes his two innings without allowing a hit, although the Dominican native did walk two in the seventh.
Time for the 'Cats to get some runs as we go to the eighth still 7-5 Joliet.

Pitching chage for Joliet (again). Big (real big) left-hander Devin Anderson into the game. Listed at 6'5", 245 pounds, Anderson is every inch and pound of that.

Jeff Beachum is in the book today, with a two-out swinging bunt single down the third base line. But that's it for the 'Cats in the eighth, only one more chance to score still down two.

The dude is still here, it's incredible. He's taken off the jersey (wearing one of road greys) but he's still in RailCats cap with a black t-shirt and jeans, and sitting in the very last row of the very last section down the third base line. Probably hiding out from security. Good move my man, way to hang in there.

Pitching change for the RailCats. Right-hander Jon Mueller, a former Cubs farmhand, is on. Mueller is the younger brother of former RailCat Dale Mueller and the proud wearer of this tremedous mustache:

That is, by far, the greatest mustache in RailCats history. Welcome to the record books, Jon.

As a pitcher, he's not bad either. Aside from an Andrew Sweet double, Mueller gets through the eighth unscathed. Last chance for the RailCats to tie or win it, going to the ninth down 7-5.

Pitching Change for Joliet: Jason Richardson on. 27-year-old independent league veteran.

John Torres is here today after getting spotted at the team's open tryout. He's played a couple innings in right, and he gets his first at bat here in the ninth, grounding out to third base. The RailCats go in order, so the game is ov ... well, not quite yet. We'll have a bottom of the ninth to give Johnny Mustache another inning of work.

Someone hits into a 4-6-3 double play (interest in this game is waning in the press box since, you know, the game is over). And Mueller gets Mike Coles to roll one back to him to officially end this game. All mustache-loving aside, Mueller actually looked quite impressive in his RailCats debut.

Live blog number on in the books for 2009. Thanks for the questions and comments, and don't forget to check out this blog - the (Rail)Cats Meow, don't you know - during the season, along with our Twitter (twitter.com/railcats) and the all-new www.railcatsbaseball.com.

Final score: Joliet 7, RailCats 5

The RailCats are in Schaumburg tomorrow at 2:30 and we'll have you covered. Check back here to see just how we'll be covering that game.

Now get back to work!

Friday, May 1, 2009

High School Challenge Results: May 1-4

U. S. Steel Yard
Friday, May 1, 2009

T-F North 2, T-F South 1

Notes: T-F North’s Adalberto Galvan threw a complete game no-hitter, allowing only four baserunners; Galvan was named his team’s Most Valuable Player; The Meteors won the game on a ninth inning single by Logan Frey, scoring Elijaben Israel who had tripled; Kyle Zegarac started on the mound for T-F South and allowed one run on two hits in four innings, earning his team’s MVP award.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hebron 8, Gary West Side 2

Notes: MVPs - Hebron's Larry Spore Jr.; West Side's Mike Swayne

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hammond 13, Bowman Academy 1 (5 innings)

Notes: MVPs - Hammond's Ricky Vasquez; Bowman's LeVon Whittaker

U. S. Steel Yard
Monday, May 4, 2009

LaPorte 4, Chesterton 1

Notes: The total attendance of 707 marks the largest crowd in the seven-year history of the High School Challenge; the record broke the previous mark of 598 also set by Chesterton and LaPorte; Slicers starter Kevin Upp allowed only two hits in a complete game win, earning his team’s Most Valuable Player honors; Chesterton starter Glenn Peterson was named his team’s MVP.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And We're Back

Just because the (Rail)Cats Meow was on a mini-hiatus, it doesn't mean we don't love you anymore. We just needed a little time. It won't happen again, we promise.

Now that we're back, let's get right into it. Things have certainly been busy around the Steel Yard the last two weeks with the team coming together and season rapidly approaching. Today the ballpark played host to one of our favorite events - the 'Cats annual Open Tryout. Players from all over the country and from all types of baseball backgrounds flocked to the park nearly 70 strong, and there were a few who stuck out.

The RailCats will begin Spring Training May 1, and this weekend when the club starts playing inner-squad games, the following 11 players will be invited back out get a chance to prove their worth. Two players - Dan Soria in 2003 and Mike Coles in 2006 - have made the team out of the open tryout, so keep your eyes on these 11 during the spring to see which one might be the next surprise member of the 2009 RailCats.

Open Tryout Players Invited Back to Camp
Jonathan Guzzo, LHP
Clint Harrelson, OF
Sam Haymon, RHP
Jerry Hodges, IF
Adam Kamuda, C
Kellen Kmiecik, OF
Michael Manns, LHP
Joe Panozzo, RHP
Chris Pfalzgraf, RHP
John Torres, OF
Joe Welsh, LHP

Congratulations to those 11. We'll see you in camp this weekend! Check back to the (Rail)Cats Meow soon for daily updates on the road during the season and more.

The RailCats are also on Twitter (hooray!). Follow us at www.twitter.com/railcats.

High School Challenge Results: April 24-29


Friday, April 24
U. S. Steel Yard

Gary Lew Wallace 11, Gary Wirt 1 (5 innings)

Notes: Lew Wallace's Dabney Hicks named team's Most Valuable Player. William Goffin earned team MVP honors for Wirt.

Friday, April 24
U. S. Steel Yard

Griffith 13, Whiting 6

Notes: Griffith's Ryan Galiher and Whiting's Taylor Pokraka named team MVPs.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 25

Andrean 9, Bishop Noll 1 (8 innings)

Notes: Andrean scored eight runs in the eighth inning, including Kenny Mahala’s grand slam to right-center field, capping off an extra inning victory. Mahala captured Andrean’s Most Valuable Player honors; Tony Balcazar grabbed Bishop Noll’s Most Valuable Player honors for Saturday’s game.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 25

Calumet 7, East Chicago Central 2

Notes: Game MVPs: Calumet - Mike Greer. East Chicago Central - Eddie Perez.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 25

Lowell 6, Hobart 1

Notes: Game MVPs: Lowell – Derek Brandenburg. Hobart – Nicholas Taddei

U. S. Steel Yard
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wheeler 6, North Newton 4

Notes: MVPs - Wheeler’s Eric Hibbard, North Newton’s Bobby Anderson

Friday, April 17, 2009

High School Challenge Results: April 17 & 18

U. S. Steel Yard
Friday, April 17, 2009

River Forest 6, Lake Station Edison 3

Notes: River Forest catcher Tyler Hanson scored three runs and collected two hits; Ingots starting pitcher Ryan Smith earned the win and was named his team's Most Valuable Player; Lake Station Edison's Dan Bogaski earned his side's MVP honors.

U. S. Steel Yard
Friday, April 17

Portage 5, Hammond Clark 3

Notes: Indians scored two runs in top of seventh to win game; Portage's Dom Reboy pitched complete game and earned team Most Valuable Player honors; Clark's Brandon Beason hit two-run home run to tie game in bottom of fifth and garnered Pioneers' MVP award.

** Game played in front of 444 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in High School Challenge History. First game of day (River Forest vs. Lake Station Edison) drew 390 fans **

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 18

Morgan Township 11, South Central 9

Notes: South Central scored nine runs in fifth inning to erase 8-0 deficit; Cherokees scored two in sixth and one in seventh to earn win; Morgan Township’s Darren Greiger went 3-for-3 and was the winning pitcher in relief, garnering team Most Valuable Player honors; South Central’s Steve Ames was the Satellite’s MVP.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 18

Hanover Central 11, Hebron 1 (5 innings)

Notes: Hanover Central scored nine runs and sent 14 batters to the plate in the fourth inning; Wildcats starting pitcher Jordan Rizo tossed a complete game one-hitter and hit a three-run home run in the fourth; Rizo earned team Most Valuable Player honors; Hebron’s David Laviolette had the only Hawks hit – a second inning double – and was named his club’s MVP.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 18

Boone Grove 5, Kouts 4

Notes: Kouts scored four times in bottom of sixth inning to tie game 4-4; Wolves answered with winning run in top of seventh; Boone Grove’s Lynn Strohl struck out three straight batters with two on in the bottom of the seventh to end the game and was named his team’s Most Valuable Player; Kouts’ starting pitcher Morgan Drazer was named the Mustangs MVP.

Friday, April 10, 2009

High School Challenge Results: April 10 & 11

The seventh-annual RailCats High School Challenge got underway tonight at frigid U. S. Steel Yard. From now until May 9, the (Rail)Cats Meow is the place to come for scores and information after every Challenge game.

For a full High School Challenge schedule, visit http://www.railcatsbaseball.com/schedule/highschoolchallenge/. Tickets are available day of game at U. S. Steel Yard Box Office for $5.

U. S. Steel Yard
Friday, April 10, 2009

Washington Township 18, Bowman Academy 0 (5 innings)

Notes: Washington Township junior pitcher Christian Lembke threw a complete game no-hitter (5.0 IP). Washington Township scored 11 runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Lembke was named the Washington Township MVP; Bowman starting pitcher Josiah Moore also earned team MVP honors.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, April 11, 2009

Marquette Catholic 9, Covenant Christian 3

Notes: Marquette Catholic's Cole Tribble earned his team's Most Valuable Player award; Justin Dexter picked up the same honors for Covenant Christian.

* The scheduled 1:30 p.m. game between Hammond & Gary Roosevelt was canceled when Roosvelet failed to appear at the ballpark. Hammond High School will be re-scheduled to play a game at the High School Challenge this spring. Tickets purchased for the game will be good on the re-scheduled date or are valid for $5 off any ticket to a RailCats home game this summer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today's How To

Today, the (Rail)Cats Meow is proud to present the first in a brief series of How To lessons as we attempt to broaden our appeal to include fresh-faced youth and other innocents. Also, White Sox fans.

Lesson One
"How to Not Root for the Cubs Without Rooting Against the Cubs"

Answer: Root for Tim Byrdak. The 2003 RailCat is in the major leagues again this season - his eighth in "the show" - and he made his 2009 debut last night in the Astros 3-2 win in 10 innings over the Cubs. Byrdak struck out Koyie Hill and Mike Fontenot back-to-back to start the 10th inning but was denied his first win of the season when stinkin' Miguel Tejada torpedoed a throw from short allowing Aaron Miles to reach. Byrdak was pulled, Doug Brocail came on, and the Astros got the win in the bottom of the 10th.

A native of Oak Lawn, Illinois, Byrdak was a Kansas City Royal from 1998-2000 but came to the Northern League in 2003 trying to recover from a serious injury. Byrdak proved his worth with the 'Cats in 2003 and was back in the major leagues before the end of the 2005 season.

So for you White Sox fans, don't be one of those people who roots for the Cubs to lose, just mask your contempt for the fellas up north by being a RailCats fan.

The more you know.

Tim Byrdak bio [mlb.com]